MARK Wahlberg and director Peter Berg have an established partnership in delivering macho but thrilling depictions of unashamedly jingoistic American heroism, bravery and survival, often mined from real-life tragedies.

Their luck seems to have run out with their latest collaboration, Mile 22, a heavy-footed, and relentlessly and morosely violent action film smothered by perhaps the genre’s worst affront: it’s hard to tell just what the hell is going on.

Wahlberg plays James Silva, the no-nonsense leader of Overwatch, a top secret tactical command unit called upon when option one (diplomacy) and option two (the military) fail to work. They are option three, ghosts who officially don’t exist but are very much real. Or something ...

When a secretive and highly-skilled police officer, Li Noor (Iko Uwais), surrenders himself at the gates of the US embassy in Indonesia, they discover he has secured vital information of the whereabouts of a stolen caesium shipment which could be weaponised.

But he is only willing to give the information on the chemical element up once they get him out of the country. Along with fellow tough-as-nails team members Alice (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan) and Sam (UFC star Ronda Rousey), Silva is tasked by his superior officer Bishop (John Malkovich) with transporting and protecting Noor from those who want to stop him during the 22-mile-long route to an airfield where a US plane is waiting to extract him.

While never exactly subtle,Berg-Wahlberg team-ups including Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriot’s Day have impressed with a sense of awe or thrills or surprisingly emotional impact. It’s as frustrating as it is disappointing to find that Mile 22 has none of those things.Instead, we get such a lumpen, repetitive, chaotic blob of a film that revels in the mire of its incessantly brutal violence, perpetrated by thinly-drawn characters and cradled inside a plot that’s both pedestrian and utterly cluttered.

If there’s any good fight choreography in there then it’s well-hidden underneath a swamp of editing that’s at best muddled and at worst practically incomprehensible.

Punctured with attempts at humour which go down like a lead balloon, it’s like Transformers without the robots.

The whole thing is given a bad look by being shot through with a thudding, mean-spirited anti-PC mindset that feels like a cheap excuse for shoot-first violence rather than any sort of meaningful examination of left vs right-wing politics.

This is exemplified in the narrative framework which sees Wahlberg’s perpetually ticked-off, highly dislikeable squad leader explaining how their mission went down and doling out eye-rolling, so-called words of wisdom about the fallacy of diplomacy as a viable option in today’s world.

Uwais is the bright spark in a sea of bland macho smugness. But even then his proven talents are wasted with fight scenes that function like the polar opposite of the crystal clear, balletic and awe-inspiring martial arts which brought him to people’s attention in 2011’s Indonesian martial arts action hit The Raid.

Execution is everything with this type of thing and we have a quite nasty, headache of a film that gets stuck in the mud, flailing punches and bullets to dull effect.

A real damp squib.